The Various Manifestations of The First Rule of Policing

I’d originally imagined this to be a simple cut-and-paste of some Facebook comments, but I was informed that the reading given by Noah Smith may not be exactly what Rajiv Sethi’s original thought process or conclusions were.

So, assuming this to be correct, which I believe it to be, after having actually read Sethi’s post, I’m still going to just cut-and-paste, but I’ll include a caveat that Sethi’s point in his original post is not what was laid out originally, and that the timing isn’t exactly correct, but it’s  close enough for primetime.

Facebook Masturbation Thread:

Adam Glurri: Turns out you were wrong about everything Boatfloating Racial bias in police killings

Boatfloating: Not going to read the links in your link, but, assuming Noah’s representation is correct, Sethi’s got the closer of it. Who Pays for the Costs of the System?

Boatfloating: Cowardice, Sausage-Making, and Public-Mindedness

Boatfloating: First Rule of Policing, and all

(1 hour later)

Boatfloating: I’m trying to finish an accounting project, Adam. y u tryna make me destroy my career?
As I understand the points

Mullainathan: The rate of cop killing civilian per encounter is the same across races
Sethi: The types of encounter are skewed towards more (perceived as having the potential for being) violent encounters with blacks
Noah: Why would cops go into encounters scared, they just got a case of roid rage
Boatfloating: Cops get into more (perceived to be potentially) dangerous encounters because its sorta their job to respond to citizens who claim potentially dangerous situations and/or they’re assigned higher crime rate areas so are automatically more wary of potential dangers




(40 minutes later)

Boatfloating: goddammit Adam

Also, it’s not like the power/fear thing is actually binary. If the First Rule of Policing has any validity, it’s obvious that the, ingrained by martial rhetoric and training, fear or worry of not making it home for dinner can manifest itself in out-and-out fearful actions, like, maybe, shooting a teenager holding a Wii-controller to an overreliance or over emphasis on needing to establish and maintain absolute and complete control over a particular interaction with a citizen, and (over)reacting to any perceived disrespect or non-compliance

(1 hour later, in response to my failing to reiterate the points correctly)

B: Sethi’s theory is the opposite of what you say here. His hypothesis is that black encounters with police are disproportionately safe (in reality) because cops are more likely to stop blacks for no reason. The hypothesis is necessary to explain how the odds of ending up shot aren’t any higher for blacks conditional on being stopped by police.

FWIW, when Scott Alexander looked at this issue a while back, what he found doesn’t seem consistent with the hypothesis (Sethi doesn’t present any data).

Boatfloating: That’s Sethi’s position? I must have really misread Noah’s presentation

B: Noah seemed confused by it too

(1 hour later)

Boatfloating:GODDAMMIT Adam

Okay, I’m actually reading the linked posts, and dear lord there are a lot of issues in Mullainathan’s article, Sethi’s post, and Noah’s post.

Biggest point
The general lack of good use-of-force data taints much of the conversation
Without knowing, or even just being in the same goddamn ballpark, the true encounter to population rate, encounter to detention, encounter to arrest, encounter to use-of-force, etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc, much of this is just guesswork
As the Goolsby article notes, any mention of use-of-force is missing from the police report


Adam Glurri is the devil.


“28 in the last year” Yes. Good and correct stat for the problem at hand, bruh.

Cowardice, Sausage-Making, and Public-Mindedness

The caller who sicced the cops on Sureshbhai Patel probably didn’t know what the result of his action was going to be. Cowards don’t usually think through the consequences of their chickenshit actions. Instead of taking the time to learn who his neighbors are, risking coming into contact with a stranger, the chickenshit coward decided that the potential of violence, which was realized in this case, was needed in this situation.

How much blame do chickenshit cowards deserve for outsourcing their public mindedness to the state? Where does the arrow of causation point? Is his and many others being chickenshit cowards a reason for the ever more present notion that the only way to deal with suspicious or possibly dangerous behavior is to beg and plead for the agents of the state to intervene, or, simply, a symptom of a general decline and they’re chickenshit cowardice is really just a rational response to a different social and/or legal equilibrium?

It’s easy enough for me to say all of this, of course. I’m just some asshole on the internet. So, how much of this is just internet asshole talk? Would I call the cops because of some skinny black guy I’d never seen before happened to be walking around my neighborhood? Even assuming away that I live in a downtown area of a large city, would I call the cops if I lived in suburbia? Fuck no. I know what cops can do to black people found walking around in white suburbia. But, that’s indicative of a do-no-harm mindset. What do I do though to promote civil society, a civil society that would result in fewer (violent) police-citizen interactions?

I give money to various civil liberties causes and organizations. I record (or, at least, have my phone ready to record) cops when they interact with citizens in dicey situations. I get righteously angry at bad cops doing bad things. While (some of) those are, in my mind, fruitful(even if only by the slimmest of margins), are those just too telescopic? Would I actually go up and chat with a middle-aged Indian man walking around the neighborhood? Maybe. Would I actually talk to my neighbors and invite them over for dinner? Probably not. Would I be willing to trespass to check on an injured child? Fuck no, I know what cops do to brown people found in white people houses.

So, what do I actually accomplish? I don’t rightly know.

I’m probably just a chickenshit coward.

Previous Posts in This Thread:

Who Pays for the Costs of the System?

This is part I of II of my response to Adam here.

It doesn’t seem to me that opportunism is particular to either system. Though systematic cynicism may yield insights, serving as a kind of critical theory for identifying fault lines, I don’t think that’s why we have the systems in the first place. We trust and make laws and enforce them because that’s the cost we have to pay to get what we actually want; which is peace and prosperity in which to flourish.

Part of the cost are the specific fault lines for opportunism that a given institution creates. But that is only part of the story.

An important part, of course. But I don’t think the radicals are right in their belief that it is the most important part.

(emphasis mine)

Well, that’s a matter of perspective. The costs are certainly the system, there is no cleaving the benefits from the costs, there is no unalloyed good, there is payment to be made, pigs must be killed so I can enjoy my meal. The question, of course, is who bears the brunt? Who has to pay for the peace and prosperity wanted by all? Whose head is getting twisted off?

Sureshbhai Patel had to pay the price for someone else’s safety.

The caller early Friday morning reports an individual walking on the street near his home. “He was doing it yesterday and today…He’s just on foot. He’s just kind of walking around close to the garage.”

The operator asks what the man looks like. “He’s a skinny black guy, he’s got a toboggan on, he’s really skinny.”

He adds: “I’ve lived here four years and I’ve never seen him before.”

Sureshbhai Patel had only arrived in the United States about a week earlier to help care for his grandson. Patel took a walk each morning, according to his son, Chirag Patel, an engineer who recently bought a home in Madison.

The caller says: “I’m just kind of following from a distance now.” He says he is about to go to work and is nervous to leave his wife with the man walking around outside.

Previous Posts in This Thread:


*Trigger Warning: This is a very poor post.

As a wise old man once said, “The lies and the violence ARE the system.” They are part and parcel. There is no cleaving between the lies and violence with the the rest of the system. There is no having one’s baby back ribs without popping off a pig’s head. There are few (no?) truly unalloyed goods in the world. Even if one views government as a necessary instrument for preserving the social order, or, even, that the current governance structure is a force for good in the world, there have to be costs; this is aside from the literal monetary costs, but also includes the implicit human costs that are necessary for the system to work. Even if you assume the current structure of the criminal justice system is a net-good, you have to be honest and realize that innocent people will be hassledarrestedraped, torturedconvicted, and, sometimes, executed by agents of the state to bring you the goods. Hell, some self-identifying liberals believe that the possibility of convictions of innocents to be a feature, not a bug.

Many more-mainstream reformers and activists who choose to work within the system seem to believe that there is a possibility of eliminating those costs. Ridiculous. And, when they’re faced by the inevitability of tradeoffs, they act surprised that such a thing is necessary. Less delusional reformers and activists understand the necessity, even if they do not necessarily approve of what that cost is. There’s another faction, though. The radicals. Unlike most reformers or activists, they usually understand the system’s very nature. Instead of holding their nose while seeking to effect change, they, instead, actively reject the system itself and view any compromise with the system as failure. Hence, you have the destinationists rebuking the directionalists. This constant tension is part and parcel to the very concept of activism/ideology.

This inevitability, brought upon by the heterogeneity of human life, is evident in any and all forms of human interactions of sufficient complexity and communities of sufficient size(how’s that for some hedging). If you get enough people together, there will be variance in thought and action. There seems to be a notion among some that everyone in a particular ideological/activist group needs to fit a respectable mold before they can or should be taken seriously. One can stay in their respectability bubble and tut-tut those who are on the more extreme end of XYZ ideology/activism, but there can be no Martin without Malcolm, and there can be no Martin and Malcolm without the Black Panthers.

Previous posts in this thread:

Even MLK Cheated On His Wife

In the beginning of the 20th century, it was relatively easy to be a professional football player. If you were there, you were able to run at someone and hit them, and you were able to take those same hits, you had a pretty good shot at making whatever local pro team. Sure, the bigger, faster, and stronger you were, the better your chances, but the minimum athletic bar to become a professional athlete was not that high.

As the years go on and as the stakes climbed higher, the level of athleticism climbed along with them. No longer were Super Bowl quarterbacks working nails during halftime. Not only did the actual conditioning of athletes get better, but so did the pure athletic talent of said athletes. Compare the “athlete” of yesteryear with the walking (running, jumping) Greek gods that currently ply their trade in The National Football League.

Within the current framework and rules of American professional football, certain traits are selected for. Just having the desire to hit, the tolerance to be hit, and the willingness to drop your factory job for a couple of weeks a year was no longer enough. You had to win the genetic lottery and be a physical and mental specimen of such rarity that one might scarcely believe you share the same genus as some your lesser fellow humans.

This also means that other, non-essential-to-football traits are disregarded. Does it really matter if an NFL-level talent is also a supertaster? Does it really matter if an NFL-level talent enjoys foreign films? Does it really matter if an NFL-level talent is a conscientious father or husband? Fuck no. But, of course, they are still of such rare quality, their relative weaknesses in other non-essential-to-football traits are hardly detriments to their career prospects.

Those who can truly affect the world of pro football are of such rarity, that these weaknesses don’t, in the end, matter. Now, that is not saying that these failings don’t mean anything, just that they don’t mean anything in the highly-specialized, highly-competitive realm of football. You can have a terrible palette and still be a pro football player, you can be cultural philistine and still be a pro football player, and you can be a mediocre human being and still be a pro football player.

The Twitchy Problem

I once had a bougie, white, left-liberal feminist girlfriend(well, more than one, but that’s a whole ‘nother tragic story) who loved discussing politics, economics, feminism, etc. Now, I didn’t and don’t agree with much of what she believed in nor did she believe in much of what I believed, but I also don’t view differing political ideology as a sticking point in my personal relationships, it’s just one input into the relationship function. In the end, the relationship didn’t work out, but that was due to more quotidian concerns than our disagreement on whether Teh Patriarchy or Teh State was the root cause of all evil in the world.

During one of our discussions about this, that, or the other, I mentioned to her about some of the rhetorical excesses of a certain subset of online/campus feminism,

“How is that [X rhetorical excess] supposed to advance your stated goals?”

“There are always the fringe elements in every ideological group. They don’t represent me.”

Anyone who knows anything about libertarianism knows this sidestep; there is no true Scotsman, other than I. Now this, depending on the context, is obviously true or obviously false. Under the tent of self-described libertarians, you’ve a wide range of disparate and, at times, contradictory beliefs. Cato vs Mises Institute, Conservatarians vs Left-libertarians, AnCaps vs Constitutionalists, Consequentialists vs Deontologist, Brutalists vs Humanitarians, and on and on and on. This is essentially true of any group that has no effective means of exclusion. I cannot meaningfully exclude neoconfederate goldbugs from using the label libertarian any more than my ex-girlfriend can meaningfully exclude Critical Theory-spewing campus feminists or All-PIV-Is-Rape feminists from using the label feminist. In an ideological world where Second Wave vs Third Wave vs Sex Positive vs Radical vs Intersectional feminisms is a thing(obviously there is overlap and certain redundanies), when does critiquing become cherry-picking and when does differentiating become evasion?

One favorite pastime of a large segment of politically-loud internet people is to seek out the more ridiculous ideological opponents and mock endlessly. This, while, at times, entertaining, is really just ideological candy, tasty, but unfilling. Of course, to extend that analogy a bit more, one can certainly find their fill of candy on a regular basis, but then they usually find themselves with ideological diabetes, unable to control their own ideological blood sugar, and end up getting into interminable twitter arguments with two-follower eggs as a form of ideological insulin.

There is some inflection point, however, where this sort of activity actually becomes a flashlight, illuminating on a particular ideology’s shortcomings. The questions is where does this actually occur, and how do we know when we’re actually engaging with others rather than scoring points because someone on the internet is wrong, or worse, when obvious trolls are taken seriously because of our skewed understanding of those we seek to critique? As an example, I fully, well and truly, believe that the state is just legitimized violence, and that there’s an inevitability to the second-order(and sometimes first-order) effects of well-meaning public policy. Pig heads need to be decapitated for you to enjoy your pork chop. This doesn’t necessarily preclude government actions as a legitimate answer to a legitimate problem, just that we acknowledge that it is the gun in the middle of the room. So, my pointing out some of the rhetoric of what some call Carceral Feminism, to showcase the callousness of certain preferred public policies, isn’t cherry-picking, in my point of view, but as central to my argument(or so I think).

Rhetoric is srs bzniz, but I understand the telos of sites like Twitchy and Salon and the political operatives who work for them, but for those who consume what these sites are producing, we should recognize the kayfabe for what it is. Also, when we engage with those we disagree with, or even just form an opinion on something we’ve no stake in, we should try to differentiate between the straw and steel(wo)man versions of what’s presented and act accordingly, with #phronesis.

We have to ask ourselves, are we really engaging with others and their ideas, or just masturbating in real-tweet-time?

The Logic of Ordoliberalism and the Hubris of Knowledge

It was known that dietary fat was the cause of cardiovascular disease.

It was known that three generations of imbeciles are enough.

It was known marijuana caused Mexicans to go on murderous rampages.

It was known black men would kidnap and rape white women.

It was known the Irish bring disease.

It was known the Jews cheated us.

There’ve been many a strange fruit rotted because of some of these known harms to society.

Anarchism is Near, Statism is Far

Adam asks me,

…what is the ideal here, and when is enough enough? This directly parallels “all-things-considered” rationality; when is a citizen’s policy position “all-things-considered” enough to make one a good citizen tout court?

I fear I may not have been as clear in my original post as I could have been, because I believe Adam’s taken a different point than I’d intended to make.

Admonishing those who don’t acknowledge the full costs of XYZ public policy preference is admonishing those who’ve adopted a telescopic morality. The state is the terminus of legitimate power. There are very few recourses to an unjust state action. So, if you outsource to the state, I’d ask that one fully understands the nitty-gritty necessary to have your plate of pork chops, and that, just because one chooses to act through a mostly-unimpeachable third party, it is not an excuse to outsource one’s ethics. I’d argue, instead, it becomes more important to “get right” your politics.

If you outsource your law enforcement, you are, at least by some greater-than-0 amount, complicit in its methods. If you outsource your children’s education and their safety, you are, at least by some greater-than-0 amount, complicit in its methods. We all work on the margin, and, through marginal reforms, hope to make police abuses less prevalent and school administrators less insane. However, these trade-offs are ever-present, just the relative magnitudes may change.

Now, this is not to say that government cannot be a potential answer to a given problem. Maybe whatever cost-benefit analysis a person chooses to employ shows a clear advantage. Government is the gun in the middle of the room, and just because someone really, super-duper likes a given policy goal’s implementation, that doesn’t absolve him of the ethical duty to understand the costs of their super groovy, state-violence-backed public policy preference. Don’t blink at the implications.

Anyways, to answer Adam’s actual question: #phronesis

The Virtue of Sausage-Making(NSFW)

Was reading some of Sam’s stuff here and here and David’s here, and I got to thinking.

Specialization and trade is a(the?) source of our wealth. By being able to outsource much of what we had been historically forced to do to just live to others, while focusing our highly adaptable monkey brains on fewer tasks, we’ve been able to attain a standard-of-living not imaginable to our ancestors. I do not have to sew my own clothing. I do not have to butcher my own meat. I do not have to brew my own beer. I do not have to bake my own bread.


There are plenty of DIY and back-to-the-earth-types who ascribe a certain moral goodness to doing these things by one’s own hands. I don’t cotton to that particular thinking, but there’s something there worth investigating. One doesn’t need to have a hand in every single thing they consume to live a moral life, but I do think one has to acknowledge that when you outsource XYZ, you do not have the full picture of your own consumption of XYZ.

I’ve had some friends and family who are vegetarian, and even one is a vegan(we’ve since stopped talking*), and one reason for them having turned away from delicious, healthy, and wonderful meat and meat-products was because of factory-farming. This, obviously, is a false dichotomy. One can certainly eat meat that isn’t factory-raised, but is there something to the notion that we should be closer to or, at least cognizant of, the process of our consumption?

I’ve an 80-some-year-old grandmother who lives on a farm by herself. She wakes up every morning at the crack of dawn to do farm things. If she wants to eat some chicken, she goes to the coop, picks one up, snaps its neck, scalds it, plucks it, and then cooks it. I’m not a stranger to that process. I’m no stranger to the process by which I’m able to eat whatever else I eat, either. I’m Texan. It’s really nothing new, special, or altogether interesting to me, but it would be to those who’d never participated in the process.

With this in mind, a friend and I decided to go hunting(he lives in NYC and is surrounded by sanctimonious, emaciated vegans.) with a redneck friend of ours(it’s okay, he styles himself a redneck, so this is not a slur) who happens to work on a hunting ranch. Long story short:

Continue reading “The Virtue of Sausage-Making(NSFW)”

Respectability Politics, amirite?

Had a discussion earlier, and I came to a very different conclusion than others about the following two tweets:

Others viewed the first as far-too vitriolic, thus, proving-the-point. I saw the second as a provocation of such casual ease that only one firmly ensconced in the safety of the majoritarian bubble could possibly make it, which is then later followed by, my ear, false concern and admonishments for prayer.

Something I’ve been vacillating on the past few weeks/months/years is the role of rhetoric among low-status/oppressed/put-upon when addressing high-status/oppressors. How gracious are they required to be to be allowed by the cultural/social gatekeepers into the conversation? How much of this is playing into the legitimacy of whatever, possible, injustice happening?

Obviously, some/many/most of my four readers will not really agree with me on this particular issue, but, as an example, would MLK have been as effective without a Malcolm X as a ballast(or vice versa) in the wider civil rights movement?

(By the by, I understand nothing I’m saying hasn’t been beaten into the ground forever and forever now by others much smarter than I, but it’s something I can’t really square with myself)

ETA: About fifteen minutes after posting.